NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – For a visually impaired person, a cane is what gives them mobility and a measure of safety as they navigate the mostly unseen world around them.
But toddlers don’t have the physical dexterity or attention span to learn to use a cane effectively, so their exploration of the world around them becomes a bruising experience.
Not surprisingly, visually impaired toddlers become hesitant to move around, reports CBS2’s Dr. Max Gomez.
“If you can’t move around safely, you don’t move – and when you don’t move, you stop learning,” said Grace Ambrose-Zaken of Hunter College. “It leads to language delays, motor delays, concept delays and social skill delays.”
That was the case with little Lea Dulap, a 3 1/2-year-old with beautiful blue eyes who suffered a stroke right after birth that left her with very little vision.
“She looks sighted but people don’t understand that she could trip easily and doesn’t really know where she’s going,” said her mother Karen Dulap.
The solution to encourage Lea turned out to be a toddler cane, now in prototype as a lightweight device with a waistband worn right above child’s hips.
“She used to walk rambly and she would fall on Brooklyn sidewalks,” said Karen.
Even more important than not falling is how the toddler cane helps children develop.
“Their language improves as they are less stressed out, their posture becomes more erect and they become more social,” said Ambrose-Zaken. “It’s reducing that stress of the unknown.”
While still in development, parents can learn more about the toddler cane and how to get one at the website SafeToddles.com.